VAIL — The manse on the banks of Black Gore Creek is beautiful. Tucked into East Vail, the 7,042 square-foot spread among the easternmost homes in the Vail Valley is far from the hustle of the ski village down the road.
It has all the trimmings of a Vail palace: stone and timber, double-sided fireplace, open kitchen, floor-to-ceiling windows, gym, big deck, walk-in closets.
And this home — at $6 million, the highest-priced listing right now in East Vail — comes with a story. It’s owned by the greatest American ski racer ever.
Does that provenance matter?
“I don’t know,” says listing agent Gil Fancher, who sold Lindsey Vonn the home in 2014. “Maybe someone will see the value in not just the house and location but also in the prior owner.”
Calculating the celebrity premium
Does the notoriety of a previous owner lend value to a home? It’s a question that isn’t uncommon in high-end enclaves around Colorado ski resorts. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s not like homes sell for double what they’re worth because a movie star slept there. But they might sell for a bit more.
Vonn’s home isn’t exorbitantly priced. Six homes in East Vail have sold so far this year for more than $2 million, at an average of $694 per square foot. There are 15 other East Vail duplexes and single-family homes on the market right now for more than $2 million. And while Vonn’s is the highest-priced home, the $852-per-square-foot cost of the property is below several of the others.
Still, there’s a bit of a superstar premium in that $6 million. Fancher said he and Vonn at first listed the home in August without tagging it as hers, but the 35-year-old ski icon didn’t demur when word came out a month later that she was selling the first home she ever bought.
Vonn has always been proud of her home. She has invited magazines in to take pictures. (And those magazines are on the dining room table by that big stone fireplace.) Two years ago, she brought in People magazine to film a tour.
And she certainly didn’t tuck away any evidence that the home is owned by the winningest female skier in history. Trophies, globes and medals adorn every shelf, wall and nook.
Fancher said the burst of publicity has helped with showings, but only few buyers might be serious. While Americans certainly love to peek into celebrity homes, they aren’t necessarily clamoring to buy them.
Fancher said there is a growing number of parents moving up to Vail so that their Olympic-dreaming kids can be closer to ski racing programs such as those at Vonn’s alma mater Ski Club Vail.
“Maybe they will see this place and say, ‘Hey, it’s got good juju. It was good for her; maybe it will be good for us,’” said Fancher, pointing out the glimmering array of World Cup crystal globes stacked above the fireplace.
In Aspen, the fanciest of houses are usually identified by their high-profile owners. The Jack Nicholson house, the Cher house, the Costner ranch, the Prince Bandar palace.
“That’s how we talk about these houses up here,” said longtime Aspen broker Bob Ritchie, who has sold the homes of movies stars, Saudi royalty and business tycoons over the past 45 years.
Ritchie said connecting a for-sale home with the winningest female to ever ski race will translate to extra value. How much, though, is difficult to know.
“Maybe it’s 10%, maybe it’s 20%. But there is no way it doesn’t matter,” he said. “People love the big names. They love the history. It gives buyers a comfort level when it comes to investing that kind of money.”
Vonn bought the home brand new in 2014 from a developer who built on spec. The builder listed the five-bedroom, seven-bathroom house for $5.95 million in 2013, and Vonn paid $3.85 million.
Vonn, who announced her retirement from ski racing in February, is engaged to NHL star P.K. Subban, who lives in New Jersey, where he plays for the New Jersey Devils. Fancher said Vonn is planning to spend less time in Vail. Hence, the sale.
While giving a tour of the house, Fancher points out an electronic door that opens for Vonn’s three key-collared hounds. Also, there are rows of Head ski boots. Posters and pictures of the skier everywhere. Rows of trophies spanning decades of racing. The gym above the garage has all sorts of fitness tools: free weights, stair climber, stationary bikes, balance boards, slacklines and exercise balls.
“She certainly spent a lot of time in this spot,” Fancher said.
Vonn also owns the half-acre empty lot next door, which she bought in 2015 for $1.35 million. It’s for sale but not listed. Some of the prospective buyers who have toured the home have pondered acquiring the parcel, which Fancher said would sell for about $1.5 million.
Broker Steven Shane has sold some of the top properties in Aspen and Roaring Fork Valley. Earlier this year, Shane relisted golf legend Greg Norman’s palatial Seven Lakes Ranch in Meeker for $50 million. That’s down from 2016, when the 11,600-acre spread with a 14,000-square-foot lodge listed for $55 million.
Shane said that while some may argue that celebrity ownership adds value, his experience shows that property values are more influenced by market forces. Shane said he has represented some of the world’s most wealthy business people and celebrities selling their homes. Although buyers may be impressed, he said, “they won’t overpay.”
“Sometimes a buyer may be persuaded by the homeowner’s status with the logic that if the home was good enough for that person, it is good enough for me,” Shane said. “The buyer may rationalize that if this seller, who can afford to own virtually anything, owns this home, then it should be good enough for me.”
Fancher agrees with Shane that the celebrity status of the owner can impress prospective buyers, but that doesn’t automatically mean they will pay more. But the publicity — yes, such as this article — that comes from a celebrity owner can expand the reach of the property to more potential buyers.
“Maybe it’s a 1-in-10 chance that someone will choose this house because of who owned it before them,” he said. “But I really think people buy a house because they like the house. And this is a really nice house.”